Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife has spent four days observing impact but will need weeks to calculate damage
Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife has spent four days observing impact but will need weeks to calculate damage
Officials from the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife have finished gathering the information they will need to assess overall fish kill numbers from last week’s bourbon warehouse fire in Woodford County but those exact numbers and the impact on the fishery may not be known for several weeks.

The state wildlife agency said data entry and analysis could take several weeks.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet said the “alcohol plume” from bourbon runoff at the Beam Suntory’s warehouse near Versailles, Kentucky, extended down the Kentucky River, which at its end snakes its way through Carroll County before emptying into the Ohio River at Carrollton.

Fish and Wildlife said the plume of oxygen-depleted water several miles long killed fish and other aquatic life as it traveled downriver. The crews conducted counts from July 5 through July 8 and observed thousands of dead and distressed fish from Pool 3 near Frankfort, Kentucky, downstream to the confluence with the Ohio River near Carrollton.

The affected water plume is expected to dissipate quickly as it moves from the Kentucky River into the much larger and faster moving Ohio River. Residents and other observers along the lower Kentucky River and Ohio River downstream of Carrollton may see dead fish, which should decompose and sink within a few days.

The first wave of those dead fish started showing up locally Sunday, July 7 at the Kentucky River Lock No. 1 in Carrollton and another couple of miles downstream at the river’s confluence with the Ohio River. By Monday night dead fish could also be seen downstream on the Ohio River at the boat ramp in Milton, Kentucky, across from Madison.

On Tuesday morning Missy Carter, of Milton, was watching two fishing poles just down river from the Milton boat ramp as the Queen of the Mississippi paddled downstream on the opposite side of the Ohio River near Madison, a bell attached to the tip of each rod to help signal a bite and piece of driftwood smoldering nearby from her overnight campfire.

Carter said she fishes the Ohio River often and first noticed the fish kill Monday night when she arrived there after work.

“I’m down here all the time and last night was the first time I’ve noticed them,” Carter said of the dead carp, buffalo and catfish floating near the shoreline. “Last night when I came down I saw all the dead fish up by the boat ramp and thought, ‘Wow, what’s going on.’ I was actually thinking about Googling it to find out what had happened.”

Carter said it was a sad sight to see so many dead fish and that it must be really bad further upstream. However, that didn’t stop her from trying to catch fish from the Ohio River.

“I don’t eat the fish out of here anyway but if I was going to eat it? Yeah, it would concern me,” Carter said. “But I don’t eat them. I just throw them back.”

The fire, believed to have been ignited by lightning, began Tuesday, July 2, and officials estimate about 45,000 barrels of bourbon were destroyed. The blaze was allowed to burn well into the weekend to consume as much of the alcohol as possible before it could travel about 100 yards into nearby Glenns Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River.